San Bernardino Sun, Volume 110, Number 352, 18 December 1983
She Brought Her Own Shoes
Lillian Gish has a problem. “A lot of people I know send me scripts,” she said “It’s difficult to say no to a friend. It’s hard to say I’m not suited for it, or it doesn’t appeal to me.” So it was with some trepidation that the legendary film star opened the script to Hobson’s Choice, which had been sent to her by her good friend, Gilbert Cates. He had produced Never Sang for My Father, in which Miss Gish starred on Broadway in 1968. Now he was directing Hobson’s Choice. But as she read the script, her fears vanished. “It’s the best script I’ve seen in two years,” she enthused. “That includes plays, feature films, anything. I get scripts by dozens. I wouldn’t be caught dead in any of them. They’re awful. But this was a story with a beginning, a middle and end, I like it.” In fact, she liked it enough to say yes to her friend Gil Cates.
Now Lillian Gish can be seen in one of her rare television roles, in Hobson’s Choice, new motion picture-for-television, airing on The CBS Wednesday Night Movies at 9PM. When she traveled to New Orleans for her special guest star role as a wealthy; satisfied patron of a local shoe store, Miss Gish brought along part of her costume: a pair of black suede shoes. “The shoes are very important to my character,” she explained. “They need to be right. I took along a pair of shoes I’d bought in Florence, Italy, in the early 1920s. I’ve never seen a shoe like it in this country. Here we are, sixty years later, and I still wear these shoes regularly.” According to director Gilbert Cates, it’s typical that this venerable actress would pay special attention to the one part of her wardrobe that is central to her character. “The really remarkable thing about Lillian Gish,” the director said, “is her ability to go straight to the intent of any scene. Some actors can deliver a scene letter perfect and not know what it’s about. With Lillian Gish, it’s not even important whether the words are perfect or not. Everything she says has the right color, the right flavor, the right intent.” “But you see,” the actress explained, “that’s because of my years in silent films with D. W. Griffith. He would only give us the plot. Then it was up to us to find the character. As we would rehearse the story, we’d improvise our dialogue. The cutter would take down what we said, and our words often became the subtitles, since they were borne out in the action.”